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What To Look for in a Bread Maker: 5 Things To Consider

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Preview: Wondering what to look for when buying a bread maker? Here are 5 tips that will help you match your needs and desires with the right machine for you.

When buying a bread machine, you could employ the “scientific” method seen in the picture below. But nobody would let a two-year-old select a kitchen appliance.

Yet, the people selling those appliances rarely have any personal experience or training about the machines they sell. You might as well be talking to a child.

Don’t waste your money buying lots of features you won’t use. On the other hand, don’t spend hard-earned cash on a machine that doesn’t do the job well.

A better approach might be to consider your baking habits, dietary preferences, and of course, your pocketbook when looking to buy a bread maker.

picture of toddler picking his favorite bread maker
This is probably not the best way to choose a breadmaker.

Have you ever wondered which bread maker is best?

Preaching the virtues of a bread machine as I do on this website, is almost as easy as eating this Honey Whole Wheat Bread.

On the other hand, advising people which bread mashine they should buy is not so easy when you consider all the choices available.

bread machine with sliced Honey Whole Wheat Bread sitting in front of it
Get the recipe for this Honey Whole Wheat Bread.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ideas to get you started.

Five factors to consider when choosing a bread maker:


Do you need a timer?

If you like to wake up or come home to bread dough raised and ready to shape, pay attention to the timer. Nearly all machines have a timer on the various mix and bake cycles, but I like a timer on the DOUGH cycle because I ALMOST NEVER bake in my machine.

It’s possible to manually calculate when to set the timer on a bake cycle. However, you must arrive at just the right moment to pull the bread out of the machine. Otherwise, it will preheat and bake the bread.

Considering I’m not the best at math, the hand-calculated method doesn’t always work. More than once, I’ve walked into my house to the smell of a loaf of baked pizza dough. Ugh!

In the event you are home most of the time, you may not need or care about a timer.


Consider the size of the bread machine pan.

If you have a large family or want to make bread when you entertain, get a machine that will hold a recipe containing at least 3 cups of flour. Some will hold up to 4 to 4-1/4 cups or even 6 cups.

On the other hand, if you want a smaller loaf for just 2-3 people, you may want a machine with a smaller pan.  Remember, homemade bread has no preservatives and can stale quickly. Therefore, consider how fast you can eat a loaf of bread at your house.

3 pans different shape


Why does the shape of the pan and the number of blades matter?

At the beginning of bread machine history, most bread machines made a loaf that was long and tall–see pan on the left above. It’s not the traditionally shaped loaf consumers are used to. Furthermore, the odd shape gave away the fact that it was baked in a bread machine.

However, manufacturers soon figured out how to build a machine that made a horizontally-shaped loaf that looked more like loaves sold at the grocery store.

Unfortunately, horizontal pans don’t always knead the dough as well, leaving unincorporated flour in the corners of the pan. Incomplete mixing is a huge negative!

In my experience, the upright configurations enable a better mixing job. HOWEVER. Since I’m not using the machine for baking the bread, the shape of the pan doesn’t matter. You may see it differently.

Conversely, some of the newer machines (see picture above) are horizontally shaped but have two blades. Two blades instead of one seem to be more effective in mixing all ingredients thoroughly.

Choosing the Right Bread Machine--Oster mixing


What about the number and variety of cycles?

Bread machines with lots of different cycles do not impress me.  I want a bread machine to mix and knead the dough with a motor powerful enough to do it well.

Whether or not it makes jam or quick bread is immaterial to me.  Whole wheat cycles can be useful if you plan to bake whole wheat bread inside your machine. Consider your baking habits.


Does price denote quality?

In general, the more you spend, the better the machine. No surprise there. Anybody with two bread makers will most likely tell you the more expensive model makes better bread.

Things that can go wrong, seem to happen sooner with a cheaper machine. The belts are the first thing to go in my experience.

Should I buy a machine if I’ve never made bread before?

If you are short on funds or the cautious type, consider picking up a like-new machine at a garage sale or on eBay. My daughter-in-law recently bought a good machine at a garage sale for 5$. Even better, borrow one from friends who never use theirs to see how you like it first.

Why did I choose my bread maker?

My personal favorite is a Zojirushi, BB-CEC20.  It has a timer on the dough cycle and two blades to mix and knead the dough thoroughly.

The pan will hold up to 4 1/4 cups flour or do smaller batches as well. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive bread machines out there. But it’s worth it to me since I use it nearly every week.

You may already have a bread machine you don’t like or don’t use. Don’t chuck it yet. Your bread maker may not be perfect, but a little practice and a good recipe can make a huge difference. Stick with me.

If you own and love your bread machine, tell me what you have and what you like about it. What is the most important feature to you when it comes to this fabulous kitchen appliance?

So that you know, I have not been paid or compensated in any way to say anything about any bread machine. My credentials are years of experience making bread with and without a bread machine, a Home Economics degree, and a bread machine cookbook collection the size of Texas.

Posts related to using a bread machine

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: paula at

Hope to see you again soon!

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Juanita Gresham

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

Are Panasonic bread makers not sold in the United States? I would love to have one. I ordered one a few weeks ago on the internet then leaved that the website was a scam.


Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Oh no, Juanita. I just looked and found this one on Amazon. If it was a scam, at least you would get your money back from Amazon.

Ann McGuire

Tuesday 26th of January 2021

I have a Hitachi that I've had for a very long time. I love it! I like that is made so you can set it to do the dough cycle only without baking.


Tuesday 26th of January 2021

Hi Ann,

My first bread machine was a Hitachi. When it bit the dust, I bought another one just like it on Ebay--very slightly used. I bet our machines looked a lot alike. That was a good machine! Thankfully, I think most bread machines now have a DOUGH cycle.


Monday 10th of August 2020

Can you use a recipe on any cycle and pull it out to bake in the oven once you figure out when the baking is supposed to start ?


Monday 10th of August 2020

Hi Caroline,

Yes, you can. But, it's best to use the Dough cycle. Whenever you pull the dough out of the machine, it will probably deflate. You will have to reshape it and let it rise again, then bake. If you use any other cycle and pull it out just before it's ready to bake, it's possible your yeast will run out of steam, depending on the recipe. This would lead to short, dense loaves.


Monday 13th of July 2020

I have a Panasonic bread machine and it has a basic dough selection that I use to make pizza dough. It has a yeast dispenser that adds the Instant yeast at the appropriate time. I notice that all the recipes for making bread here are putting the yeast directly in the pan. Is there a reason for doing this or can I just put everything else in and put the yeast in the dispenser as usual. Please advise.


Monday 13th of July 2020

Linda, What a good question! Without having actually used a Panasonic machine, I would guess you can do either. As long as the dispenser works for you, keep doing it. Most bread machines don't have a dispenser and they work quite well, too.

William LeGro

Monday 4th of November 2019

I bought a Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA a few months ago after years of very reliable frustration with my Oster (which walked off the counter one day, but still worked). Frustrated with the Zoji too, but at least it turns out better loaves. I bake only whole wheat, and found the Zoji recipes almost useless in their measurements. Despite carefully using weight not volume I was getting dough that was so wet that it divided into two wet balls - I was often cancelling and starting over and having to add flour, and not just a tablespoon, more like a quarter-cup or more. so have had to experiment wildly, taking something from one recipe and something from another and something from the Oster book and my mother-in-law's ancient Betty Crocker cookbook that my wife inherited and something I think I might have learned online maybe back when the Internet was like dial-up and a hard drive was 42 megabytes (or was that maybe a recipe for pulled chicken?), and a lot from my intuition (which is basically how I cook).

I do add ingredients in the order recommended, most of the time, well, some of the time, depending on how rebellious I'm feeling or how well my CPAP worked last night, never knowing why the order is so vital because when I've forgotten something and have to add it out of order it doesn't seem to make a difference. Nor does it make much difference if I go by weight or volume of ingredients - I've always fluffed up the flour before scooping it anyway. I think the people who create the recipes might have control issues.

My dough may be a bit too dry most of the time - better than too wet for my purposes. I like that the Zoji has a homemade course where I can set the kneading up to 30 minutes and the rising up to I don't know but I use 1 hour for each of the 3 rises. After the second I take the dough out and reshape it if the punch down has been too punchy and take out the blades.

The machine wants me to wait till it beeps loudly like Manhattan taxi cabs to add seeds, but I gave up on that routine pretty quickly - it would knead only about 5 minutes after that and I just wanted the seeds incorporated more so I dump them in (about twice what the recipe demands) once the dough is pretty well mixed early in the kneading cycle - I found that the machine is happy if all I do is open and close the lid when it beeps, cutting the beeps way down depending on how fast I get to the machine - that's all it really wants, subconsciously, doesn't really care if I add the seeds whenever, just wants to be noticed.

After several failed loaves (edible but not pleasingly so) and email exchanges with Zoji (very nice people, and patient!), the support lady - who actually talked with the makers of the sprouted whole wheat flour I use and was having problems with - she passed on their suggestion that since sprouted whole wheat is even heavier than regular whole wheat, I should try a dough enhancer. Which I'd never heard of. Well, it worked - once I learned that too much makes for a kind of fragile loaf, I'm now getting pretty good loaves every time. Now I usually mix some sprouted WW with white whole wheat and it tastes great, especially with all the flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds I throw in.

I wish the machine had a countdown for each of the cycles because I invariably forget to set my own timer.

whoa! didn't mean to run on like this - I guess you can tell I don't get out much...thanks for your site and I'm going to try the bake in the oven method - I bake bread every Sunday.